Economic culture of the tuvans within the scope of the sociocultural approach

Yuri V. Popkov, Evgenii A. Tiugashev

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In this article, the authors argue that for the periods of social turmoil, understanding culture as a set of norms controlling social behavior is limited and insufficient. A more adequate approach would involve interpreting culture as a specific historical version of the society's existence in its qualitative form. This hearkens back to the sociocultural approach which postulates the culture as an ensemble, and the sociocultural construed as the social in the cultural variety. In this context, economic culture might be seen as a set of qualitative features of a specific economic entity shaped by the local conditions of development. With all its peculiarities, an economic culture appears an element of this sociocultural diversity. Studying the economic culture of Tuvans through the lens of the sociocultural approach and the notion of this diversity allows us to outline several important aspects of this issue, rarely addressed by the existing academic discourse. A focus should be made, for instance, not only on the dominant nomadic culture, but also on subdominant economic cultures which helped shape a number of skills and techniques. While nomadism helped develop unhurried and contemplative attitude to life, hunting demanded dynamic change, and agriculture and crafts called for diligence and meticulousness. A brief glance at the economic history of Tuvans allowed the authors to conclude that economic diversity both provides stability to the economic culture of Tuvan society and expresses its variegation, its capacity to develop through numerous modifications. This polymorphism acts as an important resource which helps launch the alternate routes of ethnic development. These routes rarely appear self-evident under the dominant type of economic culture which had been shaping the traditional life of Tuvan society. Tapping into this alternative potential can prove an important reserve for future development. An overview of ethnographic data helps refute the common opinion that the culture of stockpiling is alien to Tuvans. At the same time, their economic culture largely rests on the values of life-support economy. People act as both carriers of human capital and "a durable beneft". The main goal of the life-support economy as a base type of economic system is the reproduction of humans as the ultimate benefit. In this respect, the economic culture of Tuvans must be considered a success, since over the last century the population grew more than fivefold. Tuva is among the leading regions of Russia by its birthrate level. The article shows that the clan structure of Tuvan society acts as an ethno-economic mechanism of survival and sustenance. The well-known downsides of this structure are balanced out, on the one hand, by solidarity and sustainable development of the most successful kinship group in the ethno-social selection process; and on the other, by the temporal stability the inter-clan balance brings to the structure of the ethnicity at large.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)22-39
Number of pages18
JournalНовые исследования Тувы
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2018


  • Economic culture
  • Ethnocultural diversity
  • Ethnoculture
  • Ethnoeconomy
  • Sociocultural approach
  • Tradition
  • Tuvans



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